Lizzie Deignan’s best chance of UCI World Road Championships glory could be with a solo attack
It is a testament to the longevity of Lizzie Deignan that even at the age of 32, after 10 years at the top of her game, the Otley superstar is still the leading hope for Great Britain when the UCI Road World Championships women’s race commences in Antwerp this lunchtime.
Nine years after she won silver in the Olympic road race and six years since her crowning moment in claiming the world champion’s rainbow jersey in Richmond, USA, the Yorkshirewoman remains Britain’s best hope of slipping her arms into that fabled clothing once again.
Today’s 157km run from Antwerp to Leuven is a punchy one, consisting of 20 short climbs, which could play into the hands of Deignan, given the nature of the roads she grew up on around her Otley home.
As she said yesterday in The Yorkshire Post, she will not compromise her principles and will ride to win. Top-10 finishes mean nothing – it’s win or bust.
For that she either needs helps from her team or she goes it alone. Too often in the past she has been left to plough a lone furrow while the high-powered Dutch team have produced a glut of world champions in Marianne Vos (2012, 2013), Chantal Blaak (2017), Anna van der Breggen (2018, 2020) and Annemiek van Vleuten (2019).
Van Vleuten’s win in Yorkshire two years ago was on the back of an attack launched from more than 100km out, which is a tactic often employed to huge success by the Dutch. If Deignan is to be successful this time, a lone break from early on might be her best bet – a test of the legs, no question, but she certainly has the will to carry it through.
The Olympic road race in Tokyo was won by little-known Anna Kiesenhofer from a long-range attack. Deignan was left to try and rally the chasing pack but could not find enough support, an island she has been marooned on in past world championships when Dutch riders have gone up the road and their team-mates have purposely slowed the pace.
If Deignan doesn’t get out early, then her team-mates Anna Shackley, Alice Barnes, Anna Henderson and Pfeiffer Georgi will need to put a shift in to put her in a position to win.
But at 32, with not many more chances left, do not put it past Deignan racing up the road early.